Friday night lights are for the young at heart, too

Bea and Jack Rawls get ready for action on the field Friday night during South Whidbey High School
Bea and Jack Rawls get ready for action on the field Friday night during South Whidbey High School's first home game. They love football, especially when grandson Hunter — the team's quarterback — throws a perfect pass to the end zone for a touchdown.
— image credit: Jeff VanDerford / The Record

No doubt, there is something special about the first home football game of the year, especially on a crisp, clear Friday night in September.

The Pep Band is playing, cheerleaders are cheering, Kiwanis volunteers are cooking burgers on the grill, the EMT truck is flashing its lights and firing its siren and the crowd is totally jazzed when Falcon co-coach Mark Hodson leads his team onto the field.

In the stands, Jack and Bea Rawls take it all in, especially when they spot No. 13 — grandson Hunter — who is the team's quarterback.

Hunter is the couple's sixth grandchild to go through the South Whidbey schools. Bethany, Charlie, Meagen and Trapper all graduated and Molly is a freshman.

Both have followed their grandchildren's careers with keen interest.

"We go to all kinds of games," Bea said. "I think football and baseball are our favorites. And volleyball, that's what Molly's into. Actually, we like whatever sports the kids are playing."

They are firm advocates in the value of athletics at the high school level.

"Sports offers discipline and a wonderful outlet for their energies," Bea said. "It gives them a sense of worth, encourages social interaction and provides healthy opportunities that will carry into their adult lives."

But, she added, balance is important and, as former educators, they understand the need for a quality education, which they feel their grandkids have gotten in South Whidbey schools.

"Let's face it, few of these kids are going to play professional sports," Bea said. "But the concepts they learn about working together to achieve a goal will be priceless to them, wherever the future takes them."

Jack noted that his grandchildren have grown up with a "great bunch of kids, parents, coaches, mentors and a supportive and diverse community."

Prior to moving to Scatchet Head in 1994, Jack, 77, was assistant superintendent of schools in Grants Pass, Ore. and Bea, 69, was dean of academic programs at Rogue Community College.

The couple stays active. For years, Bea and a group of friends regularly took hikes along the beach, circumnavigating Whidbey Island at least once.

They would have done it twice more, but the U.S. Navy tightened up its access rules.

"We only had permission to walk along the Navy's beach once," she admitted. "They have a beautiful beach."

Together, the Rawls take walks, kayak and Jack keeps up his carpentry skills.

"If we haven't tried it, it's up for grabs," Bea said.

But on this night, their attention was drawn back to the action on the field.

Though Hunter had several spectacular pass plays — two for touchdowns — the Falcons were over-matched by the Cedarcrest Red Wolves' defensive line, losing 29-19.

"All of them are playing well, but the line isn't as strong as past years," Jack said. "But they made some really outstanding plays and appear to work well as a team. Few egos, lots of camaraderie and a terrific coaching staff."

Though disappointed by the final score, they said the experience was well worth the effort to show up and support the team and Hunter.

"Surrounded by all these happy, healthy kids keeps us feeling young," Bea said.

"And there is nothing wrong with that," Jack added.

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